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What can Social Media do for the Independent Store Owner?

You’ve got a Facebook page – a few random followers, a good photo of the outside of the store, but now what? It hasn’t made any difference yet, and you’re not sure it’s worth the effort. What are you going to post anyway?

Your page can be a useful place for people to visit to check your regular or extraordinary opening hours – that’s really useful on a bank holiday when people aren’t sure. It can let people know you’ve got a new supply of local cakes or that you have a special offer on beer for the weekend. It can remind people that you sell stamps – or flowers for Mother’s Day or to grab a bottle of wine on the way home, but it can’t do this unless people know you’re there.

First, let’s think of it as an exercise in growing a network. You need followers. You need people to see the things you post. On Facebook, search for your local stores and businesses. Find the hairdressers, the toddler groups, schools, local line-dancers – whatever you can. Follow them as your page. If appropriate, make a friendly comment on one of their posts. You’re not here to sell – yet. You simply want to let people know you’re there. You can tell people in the store – we’re on Facebook now – follow our page! Put your address on any e-mails you send, so your suppliers know you’re there. Follow your suppliers’ pages on Facebook – they support you, so you might get some positive responses from them when you make posts. You can find RDP on Facebook too.

When you’ve laid the groundwork, you can begin to post. Ideally, you should post once per day. This is enough to keep it interesting and current without spamming. It’s harder than it sounds to post regularly, especially while running a store, but it can help to use a scheduler like Hootsuite or Buffer. Some schedulers offer a free service – using one means you can take a few minutes on a quiet day and set up your posts for a few days in a row – even a month. In between, you can take some photos, think about things to post and get ready for next time.

You can talk about what’s happening in your local area – be conversational – the aim being to show people what a friendly store you run and remind them that you’re there for them. All your posts should be positive – if you should feel the need to grumble, don’t use your business page. A good photo will really attract views – if you sell take away coffee and you post a photo on a cold morning of a steaming cup held in mittened hands, you’ll remind people to stop on their way past. It doesn’t have to be a new product – just a new way of looking at it. You can share stories of your staff (with their permission, of course). Paula is waiting to serve you this morning. Sanjay will be here this afternoon in the Post Office – it makes it personal – even your new customers will know your team by name. You can talk about local events – the village garden fete organisers will appreciate a mention – or you can tell people that the flood at the crossroads is clear again. By being conversational most of the time, you will position yourself as approachable – so if someone wants to ask you if you deliver to their area, they won’t hesitate to call the store or send you a message. If you’re sponsoring a local running event or providing food baskets to local families, or if Sanjay works at a soup kitchen at weekends, you can tell people about it.

If your store has a fascia like Londis or Premier, some of the hard work is done for you – look for their page on Facebook, and you can use their professionally designed promotional material to promote items that suit your stock levels the best.

Now you’re getting somewhere. You have some followers; you’re known to the local businesses, and you post regularly. You can start to use Facebook to let people know about your new services.

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